Todrick Hall wants to be a voice for gay African Americans. Matthew Wade had a chat with him about  how he’s doing that with a queer take on The Wizard of Oz.

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After shooting to fame as a semi-finalist on American Idol in 2010, Todrick Hall overheard someone say the worst thing a person could be was black and gay.

While he remains tight-lipped on their identity, he says it was someone he’d looked up to and it had a lasting impact on the way he perceived his identity as a gay, African-American man.

“Hearing it from someone I idolised so much was awful, I couldn’t believe I was hearing this guy say that,” he says.

“It made me question a lot of things and wonder if there was a place for me in the industry, but then something changed.

“I realised a beautiful thing: you don’t have to wait for permission or a hall pass to break through.”

Among the many rainbow-coloured hats Hall has worn over the years including being a Broadway actor, MTV star, and viral YouTube personality, he’s also been a regular guest judge on popular reality competition RuPaul’s Drag Race.

And as Mama Ru has broken through to inspire countless queer people of colour the world over, Hall too hopes to be a pioneer.

He says he’d like to break barriers and boundaries the way RuPaul has.

“I want to be the first gay black man to do things, so that gay black men 15 years down the road won’t even have to think about them and can just be themselves,” he says.

“I hope and pray the mindset held by a lot of middle American white men is abolished, and I hope to be part of the solution.

“I can believe in myself now, it’s the only way I got out of that dark place.”

Now, Hall is touring his hit musical Straight Outta Oz around the world, including a handful of dates down under.

Including more than 20 original songs the show brings to life the camp classic in a fresh way, exploring Hall’s adventures from his small town in Texas to the big Emerald City lights of ‘Oz Angeles’.

He says he’s loved The Wizard of Oz since he was eight years old and believes it’s such a beautiful American classic.

With a political edge and particular spotlight on America’s black community, he hopes the show will be part-entertainment, part-inspiration, and part-education.

“I feel anyone can sing a song about getting drunk at a club or people with big butts but it’s important to use your name to spread important messages,” he says.

“Especially right now with the country and the state it’s in, it’s critical.

“Beyonce used to sing songs that people maybe didn’t consider earth-changing but now she’s singing to help change the world. Listening to her sing about African American women helped me understand their experiences.”

When it comes to championing the rights of LGBTI people in Australia and equality for all, Hall said the days where people were encouraged to sit down are over and it’s time for everyone to take accountability.

“We all need to learn how to love each other, every single person has a voice,” he says.

“I’m praying for the entire country and I can’t wait to be down under and to do what I can do to make people feel like they can be themselves.

“You have the ability to one day look at your grandkids and say, I fought for the right for you to marry the person you love.

“I love to be a part of history.”

For more information about the Straight Outta Oz tour visit: todrickhall.com

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